tv Prime Ministers Questions CSPAN July 19, 2009 9:00pm-9:30pm EDT
questions on british military operations in afghanistan. earlier this week, eight british soldiers died within a 24 hour. , causing the question to arise if troops were adequately armed. he also addresses the british economy and unemployment. . . that to be useful. >> mr. speaker, this morning, i am meeting with ministerial colleagues and others in addition to my duties, i'll have other meetings today. >> mr. john maples? >> can i ask the prime minister this. in 2006 we sent 3,000 troops in afghanistan as part of a reconstruction mission. now our objectives are to defeat terrorism and to make afghanistan a stable and effective state. and i find many of my constituents are not convinced we have a credible strategy for achieving those objectives. and i wonder if i could ask him to look again of those objectives so i can explain to people in my constituency how to
judge success. >> i have to say to them that since 2001, our objective has been to restrain and contain and defeat terrorism by acting in afghanistan and, of course, afghanistan and, of course, working with the pakistan government. it was true in 2001 has been given in afghanistan and they are now mainly in north pakistan now. we need to make sure terrorism cannot hit the streets of britain and that's why we can't allow taliban or al-qaeda-related activities to flourish in afghanistan and we cannot allow the pakistan government to be overrun by people who are operating through al-qaeda and the pakistan taliban. and why he can tell his constituents that things are moving forward, for the prime time we see the pakistan government taking direct action in a systemic way with the support of the population of pakistan against the taliban and against al-qaeda and pakistan
and that means that we have complementary actions in afghanistan and pakistan. >> my right honorable friend asked your predecessor, mr. speaker, to set up a speaker conference to report on how we can women and disabled people elected to this house. this morning, mr. speaker, the conference has published an interim report which makes proposals to increase diversity candidates standing for all the parties at the next general election as a step to restoring people's faith in the democratic process and in this house in particular. will my right honorable friend commit the equipment to put his whole heart and support behind the important recommendations in this support? and encourage the leaders of all parties in this house to do the same? >> mr. speaker i think we should
support my right honorable friend. it's to increase women disabled and black, asian minority ethic in our parliament and i will have a greater diversity in public and political life. and i think the conservative party should think because they have opposed the second reading of the equality bill in parliament. >> mr. david cameron. >> thank you, mr. speaker. yesterday, the whole country shared in the sorrow of our armed forces families as they saw their loved ones come home. we support both our troops and the reasons for being in afghanistan. but isn't there a need for an even tighter definition of our mission. we're not trying to build the perfect democracy. but we must be focused solely on building securing stability so the terrorists don't return. we've been in afghanistan for eight years now. does the prime minister agree with me if we are to maintain public support both here and vitally in afghanistan we've together show greater urgency and we've got to make more
visible progress? >> mr. speaker, first of all, i think the whole country joined with the people in a dignified way that they wanted to recognize the service and sacrifice of our armed forces. and i think we owe a huge debt of people who have to endure great tragedies, seeing them happen and welcoming back people who have died on behalf of our country. and i hope that everybody in this house, i know so, will thank them for what they did yesterday. can i say on afghanistan, that the purpose of our mission is very clear. it is to prevent terrorism coming to the streets of britain. we are complementing the military action we are taking to build up the afghan forces that is the police and the military forces of afghanistan and we are complementing that with the economic and social development programs we're pursuing in
afghanistan to give people in afghanistan a stake in the future. and as i have said, we must work on two fronts. we must ensure that we attack terrorism in pakistan as well as defeat what is happening in afghanistan. and i hope he will understand that we increased the number of forces from 8,100 to 9,000 so that we could clear ground and make it safe for the population of many areas of afghanistan to vote in the coming general election in afghanistan and at the same time to enjoy the schools, the hospitals that are denied to them by the activities of the taliban. and i want to thank our forces who are in operation panthers claw. they have the support of the whole country. they have the resources and equipment they need. of course, we keep under review the numbers and the equipment that is needed for the future. i've said we will look again at this after we have seen the afghan election passed hopefully peacefully and democratically
and i've been talking about afghanistan's own responsibilities and that is that they provide army and police to the operation panthers claw. president karzai has promised that he will provide additional resources to that and i believe that is starting now. at the same time, i've said to president karzai that after october, i think it's important that the house knows that after october. we are prepared to do more work, mentoring and training the afghan security services and that is something that we will consider as we make our decisions about what we do after october. >> of course, the most recent focus on building up the afghan army on the coordination between afghanistan and pakistan is right. but i think it would actually help to acknowledge that some of the early objectives were slightly loftily and vague and the coordination wasn't there. i think we will take people with us for the future if actually we admit to some of the things that we got wrong in the past. let me ask some very specific questions about helicopters and afghanistan.
isn't the basic problem this? the number of helicopters we have in afghanistan is simply insufficient. will the prime minister confirm that the american marines who have approximately the same number of troops as us in helmand are supported by 100 helicopters whereas our troops are supported by fewer than 30. that is the case, isn't it? >> mr. speaker, he is right to raise issues of equipment so that i can assure him that we're doing everything that we can. i have to say that the lieutenant colonel nick richardson who is on the ground in afghanistan and said there's much speculation about helicopters and have we got enough. it's a sad fact that helicopters would not have saved the lives of the individuals last week. the commander on the ground, he said, is sufficient to get on the terrific with which he's been given. why. because we increased the number of helicopters by 60% over the
last two years. we've increased the capability of helicopters by 84%. i visited raf benson on monday to see the helicopters that will be deployed in the field by the end of the year with training of the crew being done immediately in america. look, as they move from iraq to afghanistan, i've got to explain. they're dealing with different terrain. they have got to be reequipped for the functions in afghanistan. they are dealing with heights and a different problem of temperatures and weather and the helicopters are being refitted for that purpose and the crew are having to be trained in different environments to be ready for afghanistan. we have also a helicopter budget that is going to be 6 billion over the next 10 years to improve our helicopters in the future. we are working with nato, who are providing through contracts, helicopters for the transit of equipment. and at the same time, we've created a helicopter fund that was our initiative and others of our allies are now contributing -- i think over the next period 11 helicopters to the allied effort in
afghanistan. so we have done everything that we can to increase the number of helicopters and there will be more helicopters on the ground and i do ask the conservative party to look at the statements that have been made by those people who speak for our armed forces on the ground. they have made i absolutely clear that in this particular instance while the loss of life is tragic and sad, it is not to do with helicopters. >> mr. david cameron. >> thank you. we have to be frank about the difficulties and dangers in afghanistan and one of the difficulties is a shortage of helicopters. let me take each of the prime minister's arguments in turn. he talks about the 60% increase in the number of helicopters. that is compared with three years ago when we had half as many troops. so there hasn't been a proportional increase in helicopters. even if you look at the 84% incapability, that is helicopter hours. clearly, one helicopter can only be at one place at one time. if you want to move more troops around the battlefield more quickly, you need more helicopters.
let's take the argument about nick richardson. of course, i listened with respect to the official spokesman of the army but i think the prime minister should also listen to someone like stewart tuttle who said in afghanistan in 2006 repeated demand for more helicopters fell on deaf ears. i don't know why labour mps don't want to listen to the form chief of staff. he said this. of course, they need more helicopters. if there had been more, it is likely fewer soldiers would have been killed by roadside bombs. these are important points and we should listen to them. now, let me ask the prime minister this. isn't the reason we don't have enough helicopters is we didn't plan to have enough? and when he looks back to 2004 and his decision to reduce the helicopter budget by 1.4
billion. doesn't he remember the national audit said last year there was a considerable deficit in the availability of helicopter lift? does he now recognize that decision was a bad mistake? >> first of all, the number of troops in afghanistan has gone up from just over 7,000 to 9,000 over the last two years, the number of helicopters has gone up 60%. that is a higher percentage rise. secondly, i talked to tim radford -- well, 7,000 to 9,000 and 60% increase in helicopters, the second thing, i do hope we can conduct this debate because our troops will be looking at this debate we will. i've talked to tim radford the brigadier on the ground and he assures me his troops have what they need. what we want on the ground is additional afghanistan national forces and that is what i've been talking to president karzai about. as far as the spending program on defense is concerned, we have the longest sustainable increase
on defense spending for any period of over 20 years. and the reason is, in addition to the defense budget, 14 billion pounds has been spent on iraq and afghanistan and 4 billion of that has been spent on urgent operational for troops. and some on that helicopters and we have committed 6 billion over the next 10 years for helicopters. the helicopter fund is producing helicopters from allies as well. we have an order for more helicopters for the future. so the helicopter equipment program continues. and we worked with our allies to deliver the best services on the ground. i think we should look at this particular operation, operation panthers claw, and be absolutely clear it is not an absence of helicopters that has caused the loss of lives. we are dealing with ieds. we're dealing with devices on the ground, boé that are
against -- and we have brought in -- we have brought in since april more engineers to be able to deal with that problem. and at the same time, i want to say little the operation panthers claw is making progress despite the implication of some of these comments and is making progress and gaining ground and that is also an important aspect of this operation. and i hope we can have a cross-party consensus on what we're doing to help our armed forces. >> order, order. just before the leader of the opposition comes in can i say i'm very conscious today from the front benches we are having long questions and long answers. i want back-bench members to get in on this session. and i appeal to the front benches to take account of that fact. mr. david cameron. >> mr. speaker, the prime minister is right the armed forces and their families are watching this debate. they expect responsible questions to hold the government to account and proper answers from the government. the prime minister mentions the international helicopter fund.
will he accept that so far this is 16 months ago he has not added one single helicopter. let me take one specific group of helicopters. what the public will find hard to understand is that we have 500 helicopters as a country and yet less than 30 of them in are in afghanistan. take one group specifically. why are the eight chinooks that were delivered at a great cost, why is it only one of them is ready. why hasn't there been a greater urgency. it's a legitimate question and requests a proper answer. >> the chinooks are being adapted to afghanistan. three helicopters have either arrived or are about to arrive. 11 in total have been -- 11 in total have been promised. 30 million has been put into the helicopter fund by us and others. can i just explain to him that helicopters have got to be adapted for the terrain in afghanistan. they are dealing with excess heat and with heights.
our helicopter crews have got to be trained for that particular operation in afghanistan. and the reas á4@@ b@ >> it is important to recognize that our military commanders will always need the equipment, by his cell. also, the chief a vent sources has said that our armed forces are better equipped than ever before. i am confident that we will always be vigilant. i do not think that this should be a subject for cross party disagreement. i believe that we are making the decisions necessary for helicopters and equipment on the ground. >> one way to help to settle this ebate, debate which is an important debate is the ministry of
defense asked vernon gray to ask a review of our helicopter procurement. that report is meant to be out in july. there is rumors it is being delayed and rewritten. could he make clear that this report will be published in full and unredacted before the summer? >> mr. speaker, we said last week that we are doing work related to a new defense review. we're looking, first of all, at the strategic aspects of that review and then in the next parliament there will be a full defense review. i think that is the right way to proceed, and i believe -- i believe the report will be a significant part of the review but we will start the review with a publication of what we believe are the strategic tasks ahead. >> mr. david cameron. >> there's absolutely no answer to the question about this important review. what the public wants to know is that the government has got a relentless commitment to getting this right and i have to say they look at the fact we're on our fourth defense secretary in four years. we've got defense procurement shared by two unpaid and basically part-time ministers and the secretary of state ranks
21st out of 23 in the cabinet. are the public right to ask, is the relentless activity really there? >> mr. speaker, i hoped this debate could have escaped party politics. i do believe -- i do believe this particular time we have a duty to our armed forces. now, i think it is right that i explain -- it is right that i explain to the house what equipment is available, what we're doing on helicopters, what we're doing on other equipment and what we're doing on the numbers of our armed forces. they are legitimate questions and should be answered by the government. i hope the all-party agreement on what we do in afghanistan and what we have to do to defeat afghanistan will remain in being. i hope that we will recognize in this particular exercise operation panthers claw, we are doing everything we can and will continue to do that to support our brave and courageous armed forces who are both professional and determined and will have all our support.
>> mark todd. >> will my right honorable friend reflect on the decision of the ministry of defense to appeal against the judgment which would allow hearings of cases of nuclear test veterans seeking compensation against the ministry for injury that they or their relatives may have suffered as a consequence of their exposure to nuclear explosion? >> i will, of course, look at this. but as he knows, these are legal matters. they are matters that have ended up in the courts and we've got to look very carefully at what we do. >> mr. nick klegg? >> mr. speaker, after everything that's happened over the last few months people are crying out for change. yet, we have a spectacle of a prime time busy doing nothing. he pretends to control bankers' bonuses. they rise. he pretends to want to have a serious discussion on the economic mess we're in. yet, he fiddles the figures and
yet nothing has happened. people want action. >> what's the country wants us to do is take you through this difficult world recession and that is what we're doing. the opposition parties have no policies for jobs, no policies to tackle the recession, no policies for a recovery, no policies to help homeowners or small businesses. we have the policies and we are taking people through this difficult time. >> who does the prime minister think he's kidding? huge, huge, huge executive pay packages in the banks we own. city bonuses back in action. still no action to spit out the big action. no action on electoral reform, no action on party funding and he has just recently blocked -- he just recently blocked giving people the right to sack disgraced mps. isn't this just business as usual? isn't this just business as
usual? a betrayal, a deliberate betrayal of people's demand for change? >> mr. speaker, we are bringing in the political parties bill and the constitutional reform bill, we are bringing in the bill to reform the house of commons. i do think he and the leader of the opposition should go away from the summer and think why it is that the opposition parties have no policies to deal with the recession, no policies for recovery, no policy to help us create jobs, no policies for the future of this country. and perhaps having gone back to the drawing board, they'll think again. >> ian davidson. >> in these difficult and troubled times, would the prime minister agree with me that what the country needs more than anything else is an aircraft carrier and would he agree it's
necessary for the royal navy, it's necessary for the shipyards, it's necessary for the big chunk of british industry that we do have those aircraft carriers? and can you tell me why it is that only the government and is firmly committed to building the two aircraft carriers that neither the opposition parties are so committed? >> well, we are committed to building aircraft carriers. that gives work to people in all parts of the country, including, in his constituency. we believe that they're an important part of our naval equipment for the future and the program will proceed, whatever the views of opposition parties are. >> thank you, mr. speaker. i think the prime minister will be aware of the case of the young girl in my constituency who has taken into care two years ago at the age of 5 and is now being proposed for permanent adoption even though there's no suggestion of her well-being threat at home. but does the prime minister share my concern that too often
these cases go through the courts in a way that can do lasting damage to the child and the parents can't ever hope to match the resources being allocated by the local authorities? will he have a meeting with me and others so he can discuss this to ensure that the children will be paramount and parents can be assured of a fair hearings. >> it's very difficult for me to enter a discussion of an individual case. if it's essential, than i or a minister will meet him to discuss that. local authorities are unable to place a child for adoption with respective adopters without their parents consent unless they have a placement order issued by the court. now, that is the issue around which the debate that he is having about what's happening in his constituency happening in place. we tried to streamline the courts to make them far more responsive for the needs of all those concerned and those concerned. >> thank you, mr. speaker. my right honorable friend will remember the strong support we had from church organizations in this country concerning the make
poverty history campaign, which he was very much involved with. there is a campaign now by church leaders in my constituency about get fair complain concerning child poverty in this country. can i ask him to give the same commitment as he did the paycheck poverty history campaign so i can respond to my constituents? >> yes, my honorable friend was a leader in the make poverty campaign in wales. the campaign to abolish child poverty is to important that we are going to bring forward a bill that commits a government to abolish child poverty. it is very -- it is very important to recognize that 1.5 million children have been taken out of absolute poverty under this government. 800,000 children have been taken out of relative poverty. we are raising child benefit, raising child tax credits. we are creating centers in this country that the conservative party refuse to support. >> thank you, mr. speaker. across the east of england, the
government's policy of moving the assessment of the need for more gypsy and traveller sites away from local councils to a regional body is causing intense concern and threatening to disrupt community relations making them worse rather than better. would he order an urgent review of a planning policy which i'm afraid is increasingly seen as no longer even-handed? >> i believe that local authorities have passed it. i accept wha he's saying that there's got to be a solution found in each region for what is happening. i shall look at -- i shall look at what he says but we've together make sure that we balance off the needs of local residents with the other responsibilities that we have as a country. >> at 2:00 a hanging plant basket will be handed into from number 10 by my right honorable friend by perfect pots, a social enterprise run by pupils at the holbrooke center for autism with
the charity hope and which shows with people with severe autism and learning disabilities can make a positive contribution and be assisted to do so to the work force in their local community not just be cared for. will he ensure it will be taken on board on support for adults with autism and the proposed national care service? >> i'm grateful to my honorable friend. the autism bill sets out our commitment on publishing a national strategy on autism but to strategy authorities and national health service and i've met members with the different charities to deal with autism. this is a problem that has gone unrecognized. the autism bill is a way to do at. and more widely we want people to receive the level of care that is necessary and that is why yesterday we published or green paper on social care. that too will make a difference to those who have autism.
>> mr. speaker, i'm sure the prime minister is right. that it takes time to equip helicopters and to train the crews for afghanistan but why does he go on pretending that the need has arisen. troops numbers have been rising through 8 years. troop numbers have been rising through all of that time. the demand for increased number of helicopters has gone on rising so why are they still being equipped and why are they still training the crews when the demand is there? and will he -- will he explain to the house of commons and to our -- and to our troops -- >> order, order. i'm sorry. the honorable gentleman's question is simply too long. prime minister. >> i think his question would have some validity if there hadn't been a 60% increase in the last two years. if we hadn't increased the operation capability of helicopters and are putting more helicopters in the field as soon as we can. and i have to insist with him that the terrain in afghanistan is different from iraq and that is why we've got to reequip the
helicopters with new blades as well as re-equipping, obviously, our staff to be able to deal with the servicemen to teal with the problems there. i hope that the conservative party will come to accept we are doing everything we can to equip our armed forces and that what the chief of the defense staff has said is absolutely right. despite all the difficulties, our armed forces are better equipped than ever before. >> thank you, mr. speaker. last year, i was pleased to put forward a private members bill to lower the voting age. now that the youth citizenship commission has reported, what plans does he have to show a vote of confidence in young people and lower the voting age to 16? >> well, one of the things that's happening over the summer is that the youth parliament is going to be sitting in this chamber while we're away and i believe, mr. speaker, you've made it possible for that to happen. the youth citizenship commission has reported in the last few weeks. it has looked at this issue of voting at 16.
i think people want to combine any change with the voting age with citizenship education working even more effectively in our schools and that debate which has been started by the citizenship commission be remain ready to push forward and get the opinions of young people as well as adults in the country. >> in recent days we have paid tribute to our servicemen and women in afghanistan and right honorable friend indicated earlier -- previously we did that in iraq and for 30 years before that in northern ireland. surely, now would be an appropriate time to consider some form of permanent recognition for these courageous service personnel who deserve the enduring gratitude of the entire nation. >> i think he knows there was an announcement in one respect by her majesty the queen only two weeks ago. i shall look specifically at his recommendation. >> thank you, mr. speaker. right honorable friend will be
aware that this morning it was announced they were phasing out the x type model and many will be lost. obviously, right honorable friend will agree that this is a severe low to the liverpool city region. will he give me an assurance the government will do everything that it can to secure the long-term future of it? >> mr. speaker, any redundancies and loss of jobs will be regretted. and those losing jobs will be back to work. i want to secure a future and we have offered jlr of 2 million of what our carbon land rovers at this plant. they would be produced there. so we are trying to do what we can to replace lost jobs, and i will work with him, 'cause i know he does a great deal in this area, and others in the region to make sure that jobs come to hillwood. t